Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shakespeare's Carnal Enthusiasms

Shakespeare seems to have had a particular taste for carnality.

In Othello, Act I, Scene iii, Iago says "we have reason ... to cool our carnal stings."  In Richard III, Act IV, Scene iii, it is Queen Margaret who brands Richard as "this carnal cur."   In Hamlet, Act V, Scene ii, the stage littered with bodies, Horatio says he will tell "of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts." 

In Henry V, Act I, Scene iii, the boy declares that the dying Falstaff said that women "were the devils incarnate." But Hostess Quickly says: "A' never could abide carnation; twas a colour he never liked."  In Titius Andronicus Act V, Scene i, Lucius declares that Aaron the Moore is "the incarnate devil."  But in Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene ii, it is "the Jew" (Shylock) who "is the very devil incarnate."

In Macbeth Act II, Scene ii, Macbeth says his hand will "The multitudinous seas incarnadine," and explains, "making the green one red." "Incarnadine is often cited as a Shakespearean coinage, but doesn't it go back to Latin and perhaps Italian?

In Twelfth Night, Act V, Scene i, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, all aflutter, declares that Cesario is "the very devil incardinate." He means "incarnate," but is upset.

There must be a graduate dissertation in here somewhere.

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